Faith is a virtue
Definition of faith and virtue
The meaning of faith, from the same dictionary, can be defined as a trust or belief in something that is not proven. Out of all the definitions of "faith" that exist, the only definition that atheists tend to object to is:
- Accepting a claim as true without sufficient evidence
Often, theists will conflate these multiple definitions interchangeably, sometimes, mid-conversation. It's important to maintain focus on the above definition, as the pertinent one. The problem with the concept of "virtue", as defined, is that it's very subjective. Depending on the definitions, an argument could be made either way as to the virtue of faith.
Theistic Argument for the Virtue of Faith
Using faith in the terms of a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
A virtue is a character trait valued as being good. Faith may not fall under the four western cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, but is still seen as good to Christians based on the following passages:
"Without faith, it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6 )
"Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.'" (John 20:29)
"Now abide, faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is Love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 )
"For we are living a life of faith, and not one of sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7 )
Aquinas believed that (living) faith is a virtue:
- "The will can not strive after God in perfect love unless the intellect have true faith toward him."
- "It is by human virtue that human acts are rendered good; hence, any habit that is always the principle of a good act, may be called a human virtue. Such a habit is living faith. For since to believe is an act of the intellect assenting to the truth at the command of the will, two things are required that this act may be perfect: one of which is that the intellect should infallibly tend to its object, which is the true; while the other is that the will should be infallibly directed to the last end, on account of which it assents to the true: and both of these are to be found in the act of living faith. For it belongs to the very essence of faith that the intellect should ever tend to the true, since nothing false can be the object of faith, as proved above (1, 3): while the effect of charity, which is the form of faith, is that the soul ever has its will directed to a good end. Therefore living faith is a virtue."
- "The faith of which we are speaking is based on the Divine Truth, which is infallible, and consequently its object cannot be anything false; so that faith of this kind can be a virtue."
Non-Theistic Argument against the Virtue of Faith
Faith can lead to wrong doing, sometimes faith based humility lead Roman Catholics to be respectful to their priests and to avoid questions about what paedophile priests were doing to their children. Other times faith leads to arrogance as in, "We're superior because of our faith" whichever faith that is and even to, "We have the right to punish those who don't share our faith." Again many faiths take that attitude.
Virtue is established by what results in real, true beliefs. For instance, there's no virtue in believing something if there's no good reason to. It's nearly impossible to make rational and accurate decisions if the beliefs one holds are in error. Exercising skepticism, while discarding faith, can drastically increase how well tuned into reality one is. Accepting things on faith effectively halts investigation, retards progress in learning about how the universe works, and leads people to take actions that an otherwise rational person wouldn't. The Salem Witch Trials, for instance, occurred because a group of people simply accepted accusations of witchcraft as true, instead of skeptically and critically examining the accusations to ensure they actually were true.
Faith has nothing to do with being a good person, being charitable, or being intellectual. The argument for the virtue of faith commits the errors originally pointed out, in that the meaning of faith and virtue are twisted and spun to have multiple loaded meanings, instead of the clearly defined scope of meanings already defined.
To say that faith is a virtue is like saying that error, fallacy, and inhibited critical thinking is a virtue.